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IRS warns taxpayers of coronavirus payment scams, phishing attempts

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, D.C.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, D.C.

The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for a surge of calls and email phishing attempts related to the coronavirus pandemic, which it says can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft.

Taxpayers should watch out for emails, text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information. Retirees, in particular, are potential targets.

“We urge people to take extra care during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in a news release. “The IRS isn’t going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster. That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS.”

Rettig emphasized that the public should not open these emails or click on attachments or links. Instead, the public should visit IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.

In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments into the direct deposit account that taxpayers previously provided on tax returns.

Taxpayers who have previously filed but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS will be able to provide their banking information online to a new secure portal on IRS.gov, starting in mid-April. Taxpayers should not provide their direct deposit or other banking information to others to input on their behalf into the secure portal.

If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file.

“History has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort in the release. “While you are waiting to hear about your economic impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it”

Fort said the division is working hard to find these scammers and shut them down. In the meantime, the public should remain vigilant.

Retirees who do not normally have to file a tax return will not need to take any further action or provide further information to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The payments will be sent automatically.

Anyone who receives unsolicited emails, text messages or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

To report a scam, go to irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/report-phishing.

Among the tactics that scammers may use are to:

>> Emphasize the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.

>> Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.

>> Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.

>> Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.

>> Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

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